Efficient vs. Effective Distribution of Advice

The recruiting and placement of ability must be improved for effectiveness, not only optimized for efficiency. By solely focusing on optimization past solutions are merely failing faster and faster to recruit and place ability at best-fit. Past results are horrible evidenced by the percentage (72% according to Gallup) of workers who are not engaged at work. Currently, in my opinion, there is not any leadership to improve recruiting and placement effectiveness in the long-tail of markets. So, we are going to be that leader.

A 2011 Harris Interactive poll commissioned by the National Career Development Association (NCDA) provides feedback that is very clear regarding those who provide career advice: career practitioners are a vital resource for the livelihood of workforces and are underutilized relative to their potential need and value. In the poll, 24% of adults report that they have visited a career practitioner and 86% of them found it to be helpful. However, there are not enough career practitioners, in the traditional sense, to cover the masses, and there never will be, in the traditional sense.

Instead, Placement Loop embraces the role of domain expert to deliver recruiting and placement advice that is “good enough” to serve the masses. Indeed we are architecting our technology to support a layer of domain expert networks that will serve the market. To that end, our placement ecosystem design is supportive and accepting of the shift away from control and coordination at the center towards collaboration and discovery at the edge. Our design is about participants over platforms and individuals over institutions.

In addition, Placement Loop views human capital like financial services companies view financial capital, that is, from a traditional brokerage and distribution perspective. We use proven advisory models that effectively distribute financial product to design solutions for the distribution of ability, as if it were product. Not only does this provide the insight to recruit and place permanent workers at best-fit but it also addresses the growing market of independent workers.

The solutions are simple although quite complex to execute. The good news is that technology and methodology have advanced and network effects are more understood to increase the confidence to deliver utility, that is, effectiveness.

Placement Loop intends to motivate the delivery of recruiting and placement advice from domain experts who are already embedded in talent-based communities. We intend to provide a platform for all recruiting and placement participants in those communities to save time in their quest to make better decisions quicker. Sound familiar? That’s the foundation of how the financial services industry works.

Placement Loop is designing a solution for domain experts to become network entrepreneurs in the industry or sector that they are passionate about.

How profitable will it be in the future to be a network entrepreneur in this space? Sign up at our website to learn more when we open up your sector or “loop”.

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Caring Winds in the Ocean of Social

As a result of the Industrial Revolution people moved to cities for jobs creating large centralized communities. Then, we started to decentralize by moving out of close knit neighborhoods into a sprawling suburbia. People worked more and generally got busier trying to make money, spend money, pay the bills, etc. as we transitioned to a consumer-based economy. The “porch-to-porch” sharing decreased proportionately. Simply, it became more difficult for communities and even families and friends to share in a decentralized environment. So, sharing was building demand for decades like a beach ball held under water ready to explode to the surface by some catalyst or mechanism. Facebook designed that mechanism. The sharing beach ball exploded to the surface with viral growth and landed on the surface in the Ocean of Social. For we, as a race, have always been and will always be social. Sharing among each other is at the top of our survival instincts. I suppose our brains are hard wired to search for others to share with; to solve problems, to advance solutions, to be empathetic, to survive.

Like fish swimming in the Ocean of Social, we’ve witnessed the powerful rise of beach balls exploding to the surface and we are impressed. We look up and see these beach balls floating above us.  They make it easier to share. While gathering in the shadow of a beach ball we socialize. However, are these floating beach balls being pushed by social winds that lack purpose? Are the beach balls floating aimlessly? Is the wind pushing us, as we stay in the shadow of the beach ball, into shallow waters of engagement?

There are dependencies as to what motivates us to share with others at any given time and there are patterns that seem to govern these dependencies relating to how and why we are social. These patterns lead to designed mechanisms that release stored up demand in the marketplace, again, like a beach ball held under water, ready to explode to the surface.

The mechanisms to release purposed sharing (i.e. collaboration) for people who care about something enough are already being developed for niche communities. Just like Facebook had its predecessors, collaboration platforms are being tested and used in niche communities. They are increasingly sharing to solve problems, niche problems. These beach balls are directed by purposed winds towards deeper waters of interactions (actions, reactions, and transactions).

I believe that we are at the dawn of an era of collaboration like we’ve never seen before. We are at the dawn of caring enough to help each other survive better. The demand is increasing because we are becoming more aware that we are in this together, as one, and what is good for you is good for me. We are learning to sell “win-lose” and buy “win-win” business models! Say good-bye to sharing for sharing’s sake and say hello to sharing for caring’s sake.

Have you noticed any designs that are making it easier to share and contribute to solve niche problems?

The Higher Ed – HR Paradox

According to Gallup’s Brandon Busteed, “barely one in 10 (11%) business leaders strongly agree that college graduates have the skills and competencies that their workplaces need”. However, he continues, “A whopping 96% of chief academic officers at higher education institutions say their institution is ‘very or somewhat’ effective at preparing students for the world of work”. Clearly, there’s a disconnect.

Furthermore, according to Gallup’s findings the vast majority of Americans think that the purpose of going to college is to get a good job (i.e. one that is best-fit).  Accepting that the collective will of the market is accurate and honest then it is so. The business of developing ability (the higher education imperative) is to enable people to be happy while they are being productive. The business of hiring ability (the human resource imperative) is to provide an acceptable return on investment.

Unfortunately, according to Gallup, “The vast majority of U.S. workers, 70%, are ‘not engaged’ or ‘actively disengaged’ at work, meaning they are emotionally disconnected from their workplace and are less likely to be productive. Actively disengaged employees alone cost the U.S. between $450 billion to $550 billion each year in lost productivity, and are more likely than engaged employees to steal from their companies, negatively influence their coworkers, miss workdays, and drive customers away”.

So, there’s a “chicken or egg” paradox which is this: Is learning quality being delivered to the population not valuable enough or are employer’s evaluation of ability developed disconnected with higher education’s learning quality? Whatever the answer it’s clear there’s a disconnect; a failure to communicate where both higher ed institutions and employers play the role of “boss man” at different times. 

Asking Better Questions

Modern society has been conditioned to measure things so that we can manage them. It seems to pervade everything in our lives. In turn, as we attempt to solve “big” problems the more important or valuable measurement becomes. As great a management principle as that is I do NOT think “What is my value?” is the right question to ask. The better question to ask is, “Why am I important?” because I believe that we are at the cusp of an improved understanding that we are here to help each other. Better questions improve that understanding.

I think that solution providers should consider designs that focus on us, as individuals, as benevolent rather than themselves as such. Jim Clifton writes in The Coming Jobs War, “The will of every person on earth is to have a good job”. Can new designs change how we develop and place ability that encourage a life well-lived

Winner Takes All

The development and placement of ability that serves us, as individuals, can be provided by higher education institutions or employers. Higher education is getting more efficient and effective at developing ability and employers are getting more efficient and effective at hiring ability. However, if they switched imperatives and higher education got very good at placing ability then they could subsidize development with placement revenue. On the flip side, if employers got very good at developing ability for themselves then they could be even more productive.

Okay, now you might be thinking that it’s unrealistic to expect higher education and employment leaders to create and scale solutions that push ability development and placement from 1.0 to 2.0 then towards 3.0. For each is too busy focused on eliminating their greatest pain point of today, that is viability. I agree. Neither will be the winner as a result.

The winner will most likely be a 3rd party solution that enables interactions that place ability at best-fit for us, as individuals.

Have you experienced a disconnect between higher education and employers in your own life?

Designing Ability Placement from First Principles

I spend a fair amount of time reading and thinking about disruptive innovation because I need to understand the past failures to place human capital at best-fit. And here’s a great post by Ketan Jhaveri that dissects Elon Musk’s approach to disruptive innovation which is based on reasoning from first principles.

So, here’s the problem: According to Gallup, 53% of American workers are “not engaged” and 19% are “actively disengaged” at work. In The Coming Jobs War, author Jim Clifton writes:

The 53% of not engaged workers are not hostile or disruptive, and they are not troublemakers. They are just there, killing time with little or no concern about customers, productivity, profitability, waste, safety, mission and purpose of the teams, or developing customers. They’re thinking about lunch or their next break. They are essentially “checked out.” Most importantly, these people are not just part of a support staff or sales team. They are also sitting on executive committees.

And then there are the 19% of actively disengaged employees who are there to dismantle and destroy employers. They exhaust managers, they have more on-the-job accidents and because more quality defects, they contribute to “shrinkage” – as theft is politely called, they are sicker, they miss more days, and they quit at a higher rate than engaged employees do. Whatever the engaged do, the actively disengaged seek to undo, and that includes problem solving, innovation, and creating new customers.

I’ve come to realize that designing solutions around first principles might allow for looking at a problem from a more foundational level—where the seed of disruptive innovation can be planted.

Musk is quoted as saying:

“First principles” is a physics way of looking at the world…what that really means is that you boil things down to the most fundamental truths…and then reason up from there…”

The utility about Musk’s approach is that it provides a framework with which to do this. Breaking a problem down to its core components and then building back up from there helps me arrive at very different designs than relying solely on analogs.

The other really nice benefit of reasoning from first principles is that it can get me out of the “it can’t be done” mentality. And that’s especially handy when I’m trying to understand the failures in the human services industry. If I reason by analogy and I can break the problem down to its core first principles, then I can logically state “If all of these things are true, then there’s a problem that can be solved.”

I’ve identified the following first principles that will lead to the improvements we are looking for to place ability at best-fit at scale.

Abundance: Every abundance creates a new scarcity. For example, a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention. Attention can be monetized.

Information: Scarce information wants to be expensive. That is, the price of context is valued at marginal utility—what it’s worth to talent seekers or candidates—the customers. Scarcity can be monetized.

Context: Context is embedded with experience, license, proxy, credential, or reputation and the like and is distributed far down into the long-tail of ability placement markets. Context can be monetized.

Search & Influence: The advice and counsel of a trusted and liked person is always searched for when a placement process decision is important enough. Search and influence can be monetized.

Goodwill: Enlightened self-interest motivates goodwill. There are enough people who want to help others gain a commitment at best-fit in their community* if only to improve their status. Reputation can be monetized.

Less is More: As technology reduces coordination costs it enables more small placements and interactions—monetizable actions, reactions, and transactions—that had been previously dismissed below the economic fringe. In aggregate the monetized value of these small placements exceed that of high-dollar placements.

Business Model Generation: Businesses don’t fail; business models do! Designing around ability development as the value proposition is too risky. It has never been the most viable and sustainable monetized value proposition. Development is merely a key activity—a related job to be done—that plays a supportive role to placement at best-fit—the job to be done for the customer. (Note: Until higher education solution providers make that shift on their business model canvas their innovation will only be sustaining, not disruptive. That is, they are merely rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.)

When a problem is broken down to it’s component parts at a fundamental level it becomes possible to see how seemingly disparate themes, when connected, can be part of the solution. Placement Loop is a platform forged from these first principles for solution providers on the supply-side to solve problems for talent seekers and candidates on the demand-side.

Which of these ‘first principles’ resonate with you?

*Community can be defined geographically, by industry or by common interests.

Evaluating Placement Information (Part 3 of 3)

Skillfully evaluating information to place ability at best-fit will tend to have three parts: analysis, psychology, and constraints. Accommodating any one of these in a placement process isn’t easy. Being good at all three is rare. Let’s look at the constraints part below and tie up this series of posts.

The Constraints 

The third part of a skillful evaluation addresses constraints. The most important job for principals (i.e. the talent seekers and candidates) here is to manage recruitment risks, or the risks that arise because agent-actors (i.e. placement facilitators) may have interests that differ from those of principals. For example, placement facilitators who are fully paid or credited as of a candidate’s hire date may unwittingly employ conservative strategies associated with top-down recruiting initiatives versus understanding the true growth opportunities represented by the relevant edges of recruiting. More to the point, they might, aggressively market candidates who behave similar to a stereotyped benchmark.

I make this point by distinguishing between the profession and business of agency. The profession is about recruiting talent so as to maximize long-term returns, while the business of recruiting or agency is about earning rewards in the short-term. Naturally, current viability is essential to support the profession. But when a placement facilitator emphasizes the business at the expense of the profession, principals are not best served. Rather, facilitators should concentrate on helping principals find matches that provide sensible balance, relevant diversity, and are under priced. This requires going against the consensus and being willing to appear very different from the pack.

John Maynard Keynes, the renowned economist and investor, wrote about this in The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, published in 1936. He discusses the conduct of a long-term investor: “For it is in the essence of his behavior that he should be eccentric, unconventional and rash in the eyes of the average opinion. If he is successful, that will only confirm the general belief in his rashness; and if in the short run he is unsuccessful, which is very likely, he will not receive much mercy. Worldly wisdom teaches that it is better for reputation to fail conventionally than to succeed unconventionally.”

As Keynes suggests, the risk of losing credibility as a placement facilitator for straying too far from convention is important. As a result, facilitators will often strive to be different enough to succeed but not so different as to be considered unconventional. The reason is that they are often inappropriately judged by short-term performance. Likewise, a principal who makes a conventional decision that turns out to be wrong can fall back on the argument that the decision process was usual, even if uninspired, and hence the outcome was based on something unavoidable. A principal who makes a correct but unconventional decision that ends badly is exposed to criticism and the risk of losing credibility.

In hiring, the trend toward conformity is clear. It seems to me that workforces today look more like their stereotyped benchmarks than they did thirty years ago. Just as we see in investment portfolios the measure of how different a mutual fund portfolio is compared to its benchmark, has fallen from 75 percent in 1980 to about 60 percent in 2010 in the United States. Too many leaders in ability placement markets as well as in business fear straying too far from convention, even in cases where the convention isn’t all that great.

Because all three parts to skillfully evaluate placement information are difficult, they stand in the way of great long-term performance. Some can succeed in one or two of those areas, but very few can master all three. This fits with the conclusion of an analysis of skill and luck in hiring: only a handful can surmount the analytical, psychological, and constraint obstacles. The same is true in financial investing which provides an excellent analog to learn from.

The Sin of Higher Ed Business Models

Recently, I read Amit Mrig’s (President of Academic Impressions) white paper titled “The Other Higher-Ed Bubble” in which he describes a “denial bubble” in academic leadership. Specifically, he outlines and describes four assumptions that are “rooted in past practices and experiences, that no longer hold true and that often hold leaders back from taking a new and different approach” to meet current challenges facing the industry. He makes the point that these are “false-assumptions” now, in today’s environment, in addition to a popular understanding of a financial bubble for the middle tier of educational institutions. This is really a good white paper as a call to action for higher ed leadership but it doesn’t go far enough in opening up eyes to the industry’s most harmful embedded assumption relating to why the market (i.e. the consumer) is interested in paying money to attend higher ed institutions in the first place.

Also, I read an article at Forbes by John Tamny in which he writes that there is not a higher ed financial bubble because parents and students have always and will always pay up for the experience (e.g. career networking) that college provides. In fact, he writes that employers don’t really care about the knowledge learned by the student, at say Yale or Stanford, but rather use attendance at prestigious schools as a signal that the student “is smart, probably hard working for having been accepted, and in possession of [attributes], that the individual can likely learn the skills necessary to achieve on the job”. After reading this article the reader is left thinking about the motivations, quality of education, and price sensitivity of higher ed market participants affiliated with non-prestigious schools.

Is it not obvious that a student’s greatest pain point relates to placing his/her ability at best-fit and at best-price of process? Is it not obvious that education, career guidance, and life-design are merely key activities in support of placement at best-fit? And reducing friction* is critical to best-price of placement process?

As a Global Career Development Facilitator and startup entrepreneur in this space what is particularly interesting to me is that both authors can relate to the challenges facing higher ed today but each misses the deeper critical problem in the industry. Amit sheds light on baked-in assumptions that he feels need to be questioned and John sheds light on bottom-line motivation from the market’s perspective, albeit at the top-end of the market. However, each author seems to miss the critical baked-in assumption and bottom-line motivation that applies to the mass market, the long-tail of the market.

Any business model that is interested in viability and sustainability needs to get as close to the solution provider (or be the solution provider) who is reducing or eliminating the market’s greatest pain point more efficiently and effectively than competing alternatives. The sin of higher education business models is a failure to design for or very closely around placement of ability at best-fit and at best-price of process. I can not identify one business model in higher education that even attempts, none-the-less succeeds, to design for such.

As a result, the disruption we are witnessing today in higher ed is just the beginning. The disruption will destroy every higher ed business model including online education models that do not focus on placement at best-fit at best-price for the mass market. The reason the prestigious school’s business model will eventually be destroyed as well is because the solution provider successfully serving the mass market will eventually have access to cheaper capital to create solutions to satisfy the top-end of the market at a lower cost. I think that ALL (save for niche ability development) higher ed business models that do not reconstruct their value proposition to deliver placement at best-fit are going to fail because  that is the greatest pain point in the mass market.

Frustratingly, most leaders don’t care enough to reconstruct the higher ed business model today. I believe it is because they are towards the end of their careers and they know how slow change occurs in higher ed. So, the vast majority of leaders are less inclined to support risks associated with reconstructing the value proposition. However, the disruption being leveled from the “outside” will continue in the interim and the harm to younger higher ed stakeholders will be greater as a result of the lack of current leadership to reconstruct today.

Personally, I think that the higher ed industry will be viewed twenty years from now as the greatest mechanism ever to aggregate ability but failed at designing a viable and sustainable business model because it thought its core sustainable deliverable was academic credential rather than placement at best-fit.

For further reading on how leadership in higher ed may be screwing up a great business opportunity similar to how the music industry leadership screwed up in the face of innovation read Clay Shirky’s prior blog post titled, “Napster, Udacity, and the Academy“.

What do you think?

* Friction is everything that slows down making better placement decisions quicker. Examples of “hard” friction include voice mail, phone tag, text tag and travel. And then there’s email which is the worst collaboration tool ever used on a wide scale! Examples of “soft” friction include the lack of transparency, relevant content, knowledge, and intelligence. All friction inhibits getting through a placement process efficiently (speed/cost) and effectively (accuracy).